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One Person Can Make a Difference

By Mary Ellen Flannery


Deloris Hudson Rome, who taught consumer science for 37 years, officially “retired” in 2011. But she continues to serve on NEA’s Ethnic Minority Affairs Committee, the NEA Human and Civil Rights Committee, and is vice president of the Southwestern Ohio Education Association Retired Association. (Her husband warns her that she can’t do it all, but he might not be right about that.)

In 2014, Hudson Rome added a new role: Co-facilitator of the online “School-to-Prison Pipeline” group in NEA’s Great Public Schools Network, where she helps guide discussion and provide resources. In 2010, more than 3 million students were suspended or expelled, and research shows those students are more likely to drop out and eventually be incarcerated.

Recently, Hudson Rome talked to NEA Today for NEA-Retired Members about this work.

Q: How did you get involved with this issue?

A: You know, when I had a problem with a student, it was usually a boy or group of boys, and usually they didn’t want to be in consumer and family science but they ended up in the class because they were required to take an elective. They’d mess up their projects and mess up my [sewing] machines. They were probably frustrated because they couldn’t or didn’t want to sew, but I was frustrated too! And I’d say, ‘Get him out of here!’

What happens to those kids? Where do they go when they’re kicked out of school? Often, you’d see them at the mall or the grocery store, and you’d say, ‘How’s it going?’ and sometimes the answer was, ‘Well, I just got out of jail…’
You know you can’t reach every student. But it does feel good when you know you’ve helped at least one. I ran into a former student recently, this was a kid who always had a smile, and he was doing really well. But he said to me, ‘Do you remember Jim?’ And, of course I remember Jim. He had like 20-something piercings and I don’t know how many tattoos. I always wondered what happened to him. Well, this other student told me, ‘Well, Jim is in jail.’

That’s the kid you wish you could get to, because that’s the kid who needs to be helped.

Q: Let’s talk about the GPS Network group—what can your retired colleagues find there, and will it be useful to them?

A: We put on discussions, host webinars, provide resource materials—I tell everybody I meet to join us there! You can look at the resources when you have time. We’re looking at all the things that will help students, including [the reversal of] zero tolerance policies, which I personally believe should be changed.

In February, we hosted a webinar with educators from Montgomery County, Md., and I liked what they had to say because it was practical. They shared their best practices and how to make a difference.

Q: Do you believe one person can make a difference?

A: Yes, I do!

Visit the Great Public School Network.

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